Palestinians hold rallies for Arafat


Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 2:29 a.m.
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A masked Palestinian boy carries a picture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, left, alongside a demonstrator carrying a placard of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the Iyan Beit Elma refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus Wednesday Jan. 1, 2003. The demonstration was held to mark the 38th anniversary of the founding of Arafat's Fatah movement.

(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
JERUSALEM - Thousands of Palestinians, many carrying assault rifles and dummy rockets, marched in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Wednesday to mark the founding anniversary of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, in a show of defiance against Israeli occupation.
In the northern Gaza Strip, meanwhile, the army said three armed Palestinians tried to infiltrate into a Jewish settlement at nightfall. They were shot and killed by soldiers, who later found knives on their bodies, the army said. Palestinian relatives identified the three as teenagers, ages 14-16, from the nearby Jabaliya refugee camp.
Israeli soldiers stayed out of the towns and refugee camps on Wednesday, allowing the marches to continue undisturbed. Israeli forces took control of most of the main West Bank centers in June after suicide bombing attacks inside Israel.
The rallies, marking the 38th anniversary of the founding of Fatah in 1965, came after 27 months of Palestinian-Israeli violence. Fatah has struggled for dominance with two Islamic militant movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The large turnout for the marches was a statement of Fatah power.
Fatah-affiliated militias have carried out increasing numbers of attacks against Israelis in the past year, including some suicide bomb attacks.
Fatah-affiliated militias have carried out increasing numbers of attacks against Israelis in the past year, including some suicide bomb attacks. Arafat has denounced the bombings and other attacks on civilians inside Israel.
However, Arafat and other Palestinian leaders have hesitated to denounce attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, lands claimed by the Palestinians.
In the West Bank city of Nablus, demonstrators burned a life-size doll of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. A child carried a large poster of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein in a march where others held posters of Arafat.
In Jenin, a town at the northern edge of the West Bank, gunmen holding M-16 assault rifles and wearing black and white checkered keffiyeh headdresses, a Fatah trademark, hung out the windows of cars in a motorized parade.
In the Jabaliya refugee camp next to Gaza City, four lines of armed and masked gunmen marched along the main road, as children watched from the sides.
One of the marchers wore belts of machine gun bullets draped across his chest. Dozens carried rifles, and some shouldered mock rockets and rocket launchers. Palestinians frequently fire homemade rockets at nearby Jewish settlements.
In another development, Amram Mitzna, the moderate Labor Party candidate for prime minister in Israel's Jan. 28 election, said he would pay settlers who agree to relocate to inside Israel. Visiting a settlement next to Jenin, Mitzna said, "When I become prime minister, we will propose full compensation to everyone who wants to leave and go back to" Israel.
Mitzna would give up most of the West Bank and dismantle many Jewish settlements as part of his solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli media quoted an unnamed senior Israeli army officer as saying that an al-Qaida leader has arrived in Beirut, intending to recruit Palestinians, primarily in Gaza. Israel has claimed before that al-Qaida is active in the Palestinian areas, a charge the Palestinians deny.
Also Wednesday, Israeli forces destroyed several Palestinian houses, while Israel leaders met to discuss handing over millions of dollars in frozen Palestinian tax funds.
Israel will transfer the tax money to the Palestinians under terms of an agreement worked out last month. Under interim peace accords, Israel collects customs duties on goods meant for the Palestinian territories and is supposed to transfer the money to the Palestinian Authority.
However, since violence erupted in September 2000, Israel had refused to hand over the money, saying that it would be used to finance terrorism. In recent months, however, Israel has been releasing some of the funds.
Under the agreement, U.S. accountants would monitor the funds to ensure that they were used for civilian purposes. A senior Palestinian official said the money would be transferred in a few days.

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